Not marketing your activities is like standing in a dark corner and winking at a girl. You know what you are doing but nobody else does. (Anon.)
And so begins the introduction to A Short-cut to Marketing the Library written by Swedish library consultant Zuzana Helinsky. I recently got this book from the McGill Library’s collection in a desperate attempt to teach myself important concepts that I feel were not adequately covered in library school. When I begin my new position as a Public Library Director in June, I anticipate that the responsibility of developing a marketing strategy for the library will fall into my lap and I want to be as prepared as possible.
As the title suggests, Helinsky’s book offers an extremely brief (only 90 pages) introduction to applying marketing concepts specifically to libraries and is written in an easy to understand language for all us non-business students. Unfortunately this book spends too many of its 90 pages preaching to the choir on the importance of marketing. If I did not already think that marketing library collections and services should be a priority than I would not have borrowed the book in the first place. There was really no need to include so many redundant clichés and analogies to demonstrate that libraries should focus more on marketing (although I must admit that I do find the opening analogy quoted above particularly amusing and applicable).
One point of interest that I learned that I had not previously thought of is Owner marketing. Owner marketing is the idea that you should not only be marketing your library to its users and potential users but that you should also develop a plan to market the library to the “decision makers”. In an academic setting this could be the university authorities like the deans, provosts and principal. In a public library setting this could be the local politicians and/or the library board of directors. Essentially these are the people who allocate the library’s budget and have the final say on approving big projects such as renovations or the creation of a new staff position. In order to ensure that these decision-makers are supportive of the library, they must understand the value of the library within the community/institution and this takes a proper marketing strategy.
The book also mentions certain marketing tools that would benefit librarians in the analysis stage of developing a marketing strategy such as the SWOT, PEST, and Porter’s five forces analysis. We saw these strategies in our Management class but seeing them again in this book has reminded me of the importance of taking the time to brainstorm and use all the information available to develop a clear marketing strategy instead of simply improvising. I tend to be very good at improvising with ideas but I recognize the value of having a game plan in order to effectively promote and validate actions.
Although the author mentions a few interesting marketing ideas that have been used in libraries in Sweden such as a Competitions, using Social Networking to connect virtually with users, and holding a Library Ball, I would be extremely interested in hearing your ideas that could be applied to a small town public library. I have also heard of libraries hosting Speed Dating events and I am extremely intrigued to hear from anyone who has experience with this type of event and who could share its outcomes!